Can I borrow a Veyron again, please?
We all know it's good, but just how good is the Veyron on a proper road. Steve Sutcliffe gives a personal view on Bugatti's monster - second time around.
This story ran for a period of hours on the site a few weeks ago, but was withdrawn for embargo reasons. If you didn't get the chance to read it then, here you go... AT, Editor
You won't see a Veyron doing this too often...
I came away from those two days ever so slightly numbed by what the Veyron could do, but also confused. It was so much faster than any other road car I’d ever driven (including a McLaren F1 and Porsche 911 GT1) I found it hard to put the whole thing into context. The Veyron was mind-bending in its ability to go from over here to over there in the blink of an eye. Even after driving Audi’s R8 Le Mans racer around Magny Cours and Jaguar’s R3 F1 car around Barcelona, it felt bonkers fast.
And yet…there was something odd about the Veyron that left me cold on that first experience in Sicily. It was so accomplished at everything it did it felt curiously devoid of emotion or personality. Despite it being the fastest production road car in history and the ultimate technical creation, I wasn’t as gripped by it as I should have been.
So it was with an open mind – and a very big grin – that I greeted a man from Bugatti a couple of weeks ago, shortly before he handed me the keys to a second Veyron to try. This one was made available from the factory at Molsheim near the French/German border, i.e. near roads that would be much more interesting to drive on than the lumpen autostradas of Sicily. Intriguingly, my wheels that week happened to be a 911 GT3 RS. Surely that would offer some challenge to the Bugatti on the twisting and turning French roads. Wouldn’t it?
That was what amazed me more than anything about the Veyron, second time around – its pure speed across the ground, even when that ground was narrow and twisty and not the sort of terrain you’d expect a two metre wide, 1900kg, 1000bhp monster to work well upon. One particular “dice” with the 997 will stick in my mind for a very long time, mainly because it was me who was driving the Porsche, watching the Bugatti.
The Veyron’s lights didn’t move so much as a millimetre as I drove that GT3 RS down the mountain. So I knew its driver was sitting there, waiting, wondering whether I was trying or not. It got to the point where I didn’t want to drive the Porsche any harder, not on the public road. And then a shortish straight appeared and the Veyron blew by me like I was standing still.
The noise it made as it did so was extraordinary, a manic blend of thunderous exhaust bellow intertwined with a whole range of whistles and fizzes from the four turbos and their collective wastegates. For the next 30sec or so the road got twistier again and, for a while, I could keep the Bugatti in sight.
And then it was gone. So far away that I could no longer see it, even at the end of the longest straights. In no more than a minute it had caught, passed and blown me and the GT3 RS into the undergrowth.
I was wrong about the Veyron first time round; I don’t mind admitting that now. It does have soul, it does have emotion, and it certainly isn’t short on personality. But the first time I drove it the roads were all wrong, and the Veyron’s character failed to emerge. Now I’ve driven it again and seen what it can do to a 997 GT3 RS over a difficult road, well, it’s hard to express how good a car I think the mighty Veyron is.
Better than a McLaren F1? Without a single shadow of a doubt. And it doesn’t get any better than that.
From now on, PH writers will be listing their motoring credentials. First in the ex-mastermind, tatty leather armchair is…
About your author: Steve Sutcliffe, UK
Can you list your motoring journalism experience please?
1988; road test assistant for What Car?
1991; road test editor for What Car? (won Jet Media young journalist of the year 1992)
1993; deputy road test editor for Autocar
1996; road test editor for Autocar
2000; motoring editor for Autocar
2003; editor Autocar
2004 to present; editor at large for Autocar
How about any other car/driving etc experience that is relevant?
Three seasons as a works driver in TVR Tuscan Challenge (1998, 1999, 2000; 12 podiums, 2 poles and 3 race wins in 2000).
BTCC with Lexus in 2001; took class pole at 2000 Nurburgring 24h; raced for Ford junior DTM team at 2002 Nurburgring 24h. 2nd in first ever race – Caterham road sports.
Driven and road tested the following road cars for Autocar; McLaren F1, Jaguar XJ220, Jaguar XJ220 C, Porsche 911 GT1, Ferrari F40, Bugatti Veyron, to name just a few.
Driven and track tested the following competition cars for Autocar & Autosport; Toyota Corolla WRC, Ford focus WRC, Audi R8 Le Mans wining car, Jaguar R3 F1 car, Tyrrell 005 F1 car, Porsche 911 GT1 Le Mans winner, BMW M3 GTR race car.
Fair enough. What are the best/most enjoyable/most memorable three cars you've driven?
Ferrari F40 (no.1); McLaren F1 (2), Bugatti Veyron (3)
Supercar central. Ok, what's the worst car you've driven?
Mahindra Indian Chief
Hmmm. What 3 cars are in your fantasy garage?
F40, F40, F40
Isn’t that just greedy to want three of them Sutters? What cars do you own/run now?
BMW Alpina D3, Renault Megane R26, Citroen ZXD Avantage
Who are your motoring heroes?
Colin Chapman, Ayrton Senna & Keith Duckworth.
Inspired choices. And finally, who in motoring would get your red card?
“And Brunstrom has been sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Team Motoring’s centre forward!” Cheers Steve.